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HIKING US-STYLE - Katie Bamber, Idaho
Friday August 3, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

The most extreme (and rewarding) activity PlanetSKI has done for a while. Here's how it went on the mission to Kane Lake.

Has an American (or Canadian) ever asked you to go backpacking?

Was it something quite different to what you were expecting?

To me it means having your entire life on your back for 6 months as you tread round Thailand with not enough money and filthy feet.

Or in England, I would get together a few snacks in a rucksack for a day out in the countryside.

So when in Idaho I hear how everyone 'backpacks' on the weekends I think being a country girl from Kent I know how to do.

Or so I thought...

It's nothing ominous; I'm not suggesting they're casually talking about you to drug mule or anything in the Mormon state.

But it is rather like being a mountain mule, carrying packs laden with essentials for sleeping out in the Idaho mountains.

It takes hiking and camping to a different level - Another ball game completely.

The road to the startThe road to the start

Camping in the US is something else though.

My memories back home are being cold, waking up damp and just not really being prepared.

But it seems to be in these guys' DNA.

Each time I've car-camped in the States I've eaten steak or fresh caught trout, drunk cold beer and swum in fresh water lakes and rivers I had to myself.

And apart from earning these luxuries in the most extreme of hikes, backpacking wasn't too different once there, apart from being even more private, more beautiful and more luxurious.

Backpacking is essentially extreme camping.

You carry everything you need for the number of nights you're sleeping out, and you head deep, deep into the outback - up into the mountains this time - away from absolutely everything and everyone.

No phone reception, no running (tap) water, no nothing apart from the beautiful great outdoors.

Leaving the trendy downtown Ketchum and Idaho's upmarket Sun Valley ski resort, we drove the rubble road out of Big Wood Valley into the Lost Valley.

This should give you the first clue as to how remote we were about to get.

Once we followed the Lost River for 20 minutes or so in the truck, we turned onto a track for another 30 minutes' driving.

This was the first time of many that I thought how glad I was to be with a mountain man as the four-wheel drive tipped what felt like 90° along the single track.

We hadn't even got out of the car yet. Or put the packs on.

Setting off a little late...Setting off a little late...

We were looking at a 3-hour climb, leaving at 5pm when the day had become a little cooler.

Idaho is a mountainous desert; dry heat makes it bearable but days sit near to 40 degrees Celsius.

Of course we left at 6.30pm, after fannying around and collecting my 'essentials', a fishing rod and the food that we wouldn't catch up there.

Pack it all in, I thought to myself. Best to have it - I can handle a heavy pack.

At the trailhead it started steep through the woods, following the river under the cover of the trees while the sun was still hot.

I soon realised this wasn't a hike, which I'd even defended to patronising Americans as simply a walk that we do all the time in England. Famous for it, even...

I take back the offended, indignant responses to all I socked it to. Now I know you were preparing a city girl for the reality.

Follow this up...Follow this up

Kane Lake was the destination.

There are three clear stages to get to the destination.

The first was through the forest, uphill, following the river.

The second was most easily described as rambling.

We clambered over enormous boulders, through rock fields that looked like a ancient stone avalanche had come down, as we approached the steeper peaks up high.

During the third stage it had pretty much turned dark, but thankfully it was the mellowest of all. It was more flat through wildflower pastures, under the stars and lit by the moon, being careful to avoid the hidden marshy outlets of the stream heading round the lake for our camping spot.

Signal disappears pretty soon after leaving Ketchum, so there aren't the pictures of the epic journey I'm describing I'd like to accompany.

And apart from having no signal, bliss, and no need for the phone when with good company or even solo, heading into the hills was too arduous for selfie and landscape snapping.

The river-fishing trek we took, the waterfall bathing and the rest of it are more perfect memories, better engrained for not having a backup.

Probably best, too, seeing as it being our own private mountain it was a weekend Adam-and-Eve style...

Kane LakeKane Lake

So we arrived and set up camp in the dark (I thanked God for the hundredth time even at this stage that I was with my seasoned backpacker).

He set up camp and started a fire in the dark as I made us a drink.

And it was even more special to wake up to the view, to our lake.

Being out here in the West, there's no morning dew and that uncomfortable damp feeling I know you all must remember from UK camping.

So no need for a top sheet, just the net-layer (I'm sure it has an official name) and falling asleep looking at the stars.

While I was packing my essential cosmetics, I failed to notice my partner packing a saw, camp stove, pots, lights and all the other camping necessities for a comfortable three days out in the wild.


Trees chopped and fire made by my guardian.

Wood chuckingWood chucking

HomeThe mess, all of which we carried - home

That's snow up there - meaning the streams gave us the freshest water to drink, wash, cool off in and catch dinner from (thank God, or thank him for the thousandth time).

There were three waterfalls and a dozen streams leading into the lake, stemming from the very close surrounding peaks.

The water was glacial - amazing for swimming at the end of the day in the 100-metre-long lake that the hot sun had warmed.

It was snow on the mountain tops just 15 minutes before...

Where to find dinner, where to bathe, where to cool offKane Lake

After days of nothing but fishing, napping, bug-swatting, reading, lake jumping and cooking (and losing track of 2 flasks of whisky...) we were re-energised and ready to head down.

Feeling sprightly after 3 days rest up highFeeling sprightly after 3 days rest up high

Maybe it was because it was after an extreme chill, but the hike down was harder than the ascent...

It was more like groundhog day than an easy return to civilisation.

Maybe because in the truck there was a coolbox full of ice, cold beer and gourmet snacks for the ride home. Like I said, they know what they're doing.

Leaving the freshest mountain water there could be - 15 mins old...Leaving home and the freshest mountain water there is

Even though I pre-empted this as a warning against the extreme nature of backpacking - or more than I was anticipating - I finish with a plea to do it.

It might be the best activity I've ever done.

I adore extreme sports, I also love doing absolutely nothing.

And with this, you get it all.

Make sure you like your company, though I'm not even sure how much we spoke, or where the time went.

And make sure one of you knows a little of what to do, though I can't think of a better, more satisfying activity to work it out the hard way.

Here are some tips or things to remember I wouldn't have thought of but certainly appreciated up there.
  • Dry Bag
  • Steaks (put 'em in the dry bag and anchor it under a rock in a fresh stream for the last-night dinner)
  • Solar fairy lights (so you don't get lost during that night-time wee)
  • Fishing rod (attached to competent fly fisherman) for the freshest & best dinner I've ever had
  • Powdered lemonade mix - a great mix to the flasks of whisky we had (which go without saying...)
I didn't realise until we were down, half as light three days later, that I still could barely carry my buddy's pack, an easy 25kg.

Though the more mountain you are, the less you need. It's all about going light.

So, next time I will bring less, using hardly anything from the pack apart from food and suncream.

I'll allow him to unpack the extra virgin olive oil  to give room for the extra the flask of whisky.

Here's the survivor/writer of this piece, on the drive home from three days in heaven.

Katie Bamber with a cold beer, not yet finding a hairbrush...

HighlifeCheers to the highlife

The HighlifeThe High Life

I'll also leave out my book - don't need nothing out here with a busy day of learning to fish, walking round the lake and napping, as well as the onerous tasks of filtering your drinking water, building a fire and taking breaks under a tree.

The best thing?

Never knowing the time.

Backpacking guide/man who kept me aliveThanks to my backpacking guide / man who kept me alive / fiance

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